Court needs 376 officers for 2021 election petitions

Wednesday January 22 2020

In charge. The chairperson of Judicial Service

In charge. The chairperson of Judicial Service Commission, Justice Benjamin Kabiito, says the Judiciary has vacancies to be filled as the country prepares for the 2021 General Election. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZE 

By ANTHONY WESAKA

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has called upon government to provide more funds to enable it fill up the existing 376 vacant positions in the Judiciary in order to have enough manpower to handle election petitions that will arise from the 2021 General Election.

While addressing journalists at his office yesterday, the JSC chairperson, Justice Benjamin Kabiito, reasoned that election petitions are supposed to be disposed of quickly, hence the need to recruit more judicial officers.

“We are heading into an electoral cycle in 2021 and our recruitment effort is to ensure all levels of courts have sufficient manpower to adjudicate election petitions in accordance with the laws,” Justice Kabiito told the media.

“It also means that judicial officers who were recently appointed, need to be trained in election matters and be prepared. To that effect, we need more funding to carry out the recruitment exercise. We have the candidates to fill up all the existing gaps in the Judiciary but the problem is the lack of funds,” Justice Kabiito added.
However he did not state how much money the JSC needs to carry out the recruitment.

He also said they have deficiencies among the Judiciary support staff though apparently, the commission does not have the mandate to recruit them as they await on the enactment of the Judiciary Administration Bill.

Statistics obtained from the Judiciary yesterday show that there are 255 vacancies for Grade One Magistrates, 54 Chief Magistrates, 42 registrars and one Chief registrar.

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There are also 22 vacancies at the High Court level and two slots at the Court of Appeal/ Constitutional Court.
It is only the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, that is fully constituted with 11 justices.
The main mandate of the JSC is to recruit and regulate judicial officers.

Following the 2016 General Election, more than 148 parliamentary election petitions were filed in courts plus one presidential election lodged by former Premier Amama Mbabazi, who challenged the victory of President Museveni.

The highest court upheld President Museveni’s election.
Under Articles 140 and 104 of the Constitution, the Judiciary is mandated to hear and determine electoral petitions expeditiously.

At the same press briefing, Justice Kabiito revealed that there is a new trend of corruption that the judicial officers are engaging in.
He named some of the new trends as judicial officers drawing fuel from a fuel station, getting complimentary cards to go and shop at a given supermarket and going to a car depot to pick a new vehicle.

“All these goodies are given as a bribe to the judicial officer as opposed to hard cash which has been the common medium of corruption in the past” he said.
Ms Norah Matovu Winyi, one of the JSC members representing the Uganda Law Society, said the commission has in the last three years received 837 complaints against judicial officers.

She explained that of the 837 complaints, 12 judicial officers, were found culpable and punished accordingly. Ms Winyi said the punishments ranged from dismissal, retired in public interest, severe reprimand, and compensation to victims.

Existing vacancies

Grade One Magistrates 255
Chief Magistrates 54
Registrars 42
Chief Registrar 1
High Court Judges 22
Court of Appeal/
Constitutional Court 02
Supreme Court - fully constituted
Total: 376

awesaka@ug.nationmedia.com

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